Float on

09Dec15

We woke the next morning and I was feeling mostly back to normal, praise Allah.  We packed our things and Zach got in touch with a nice cab driver named Waleed who he had met the day before and who offered us a good price to take us to our hotel on the Dead Sea, about an hour away.  On our way out of town, we went by the Syrian embassy that had crowds of people waiting around outside.

Our cab driver was explaining to us that the amount of refugees coming in from Syria and Iraq could end up being almost half the size of the total population of Amman.  This is, of course, a huge strain on resources, particularly since Jordan isn’t a terribly wealthy country and it’s one of the most water poor countries in the world.  They don’t have oil and one of the main drivers of their economy is tourism, which very few people are wanting to do nowadays since oooh, Middle East, scary.  Despite all of this, Jordan remains generally hospitable to the refugees and provides them services along with the various aid organizations that work in the area.  I detected no bitterness from the people of Jordan who we discussed it with. It’s really staggering to think about how many people are being housed in a country not much bigger than Wisconsin with so few resources.  It’s things like this, and seeing Syrian men, women, and children begging on the streets or selling small things like tissue packets to try and get some money to survive that make me particularly pissed off at the shitheels in our country who think admitting 10,000 of these refugees (a minuscule drop in the bucket compared to what places like Jordan are doing) to our rich, vast, resource laden country is going to destroy us all.

And don’t even fucking get me started on the “all Muslims are terrorists” folks, because holy fuck is that some ignorant shit.  Yes, there are extremists, and yes, those extremists are incredibly bad..  but I cannot stress enough how kind, gracious, hospitable, welcoming, accepting, etc. etc. every single person I encountered over there was.  I’ve been asked a lot since we got back “so, how were the people?” (often in a thinly veiled “was it super muslimy and scary?” way)…  they were great!  The people were absolutely great!  Really, not that different from us.  We all want the same things.. to be safe, to love our families and friends, to have fun, to laugh, to go to work, to practice our religion.  Dehumanizing and distilling Muslims to one single caricature is not only ignorant, but downright dangerous.  So many great atrocities that have happened in history..  slavery, the Holocaust, etc. etc., happened because we decided that some group of people was less human than we are.  To see this starting to happen all over again, and particularly after seeing with my own eyes how straight up wrong people are about it…  it’s heartbreaking and enraging and kill-all-humansy.

Whew.  Ok.  Just had to get that off my chest, since it’s topical and something I’ve been thinking a lot on both while we were there and since we returned.  On to more pleasant things…

So, we take our cab down, down, down towards the Dead Sea.  Since Amman is on a hill (well, a bunch of hills) it was pretty chilly there (highs in the low 50s), but the temperature increased quite a bit as we got closer to the sea (more like mid-80s), which was awesome and welcome.  It was also my first good chance to see desert (which I had never been in before) and mountains.

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Our cab driver had a friend who just opened up a souvenir shop (because of course he did) and he promised us good prices for Dead Sea products, so we stopped in there on the way to get some salts and mud masks and mineral soaps.  Waleed got some soap-kickbacks, but he was correct that prices were fair and he had a good variety of things, plus the shopkeep was friendly and served us tea… so good on him for hooking us up.  We commemorated the experience by taking a picture in front of the store pictures of the former king, current king, and crown prince..  pretty much every single business in the entire country has some version of these portraits, though the ones pictured below were definitely the most common.

Waleed the taxi driver and his captive shoppers

From the shop we were very close to the sea and it was only a bit further to our hotel (we were staying very far north on the sea).

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We had decided to splurge a bit and stay at a nice hotel right on the sea, since public beaches are actually quite expensive to visit.  It’s not particularly easy to maintain them, what with the shitloads of salt in the water making everything jagged death, and so if you wanna visit, you gotta pay.  We figured once you added in that cost and cab fare to and from a hotel that is cheaper but not on the shore that we were basically breaking even in our fancy-schmancy five star hotel.

Oh boy, was it fancy.  It was actually kind of painful to walk in and know that we’d be staying there for less than 24hrs… hell, I basically wanted to move in and never leave.  I mean, look at this place!

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We also had the added benefit of traveling off season, and it was in the middle of the week, so we practically had the place to ourselves.  We got settled in and immediately got down to the task of enjoying the hell out of the place.

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Now, it’s of course well known that it’s very easy to float in the Dead Sea, but I truly was not expecting just how easy it really is.   The water feels almost soapy it’s so full of salt.  It’s phenomenal.  What is not phenomenal is just how much it burns on even the slightest of open wounds…  I had made the terrible, terrible mistake of shaving that morning and hooooooly crap is that unpleasant.  Also unpleasant is getting the water in your mouth, which also happened to me in a photo taking incident.  Besides that, it’s seriously magical.  You can basically “stand” vertically in the water and float with your head and shoulders out of the water with no effort.  Kate has a GoPro so thankfully the experience is well documented.

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After you float around for a bit, you can get out and slather yourself with mineral rich mud from the sea that they conveniently dig out and place in little tureens for you.  Once you’re all covered, you let the mud dry on your skin and then go back in to rinse it all off to reveal the softest, smoothest skin I’ve ever had in my life.  Seriously, I don’t think I came out of the womb with skin this soft.  It’s amazing.

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Once we were sufficiently salted and softened, we got some food and went to catch the sunset from the adults-only pool and tiki bar.

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I don’t know if it’s because there’s more atmosphere above us there or what, but the sunset there was particularly beautiful.  We had hoped to swim a bit more, but when they said the pool closes at sundown, holy shit do they mean it.  The second the sun fell below the mountains it was everybody out of the pool.  I tempered my disappointment by making friends with a totally awesome kitty.

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We hung out at by the pool for a bit after dark enjoying a drink and some hookah (joined by our kitten friend).

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We did not linger too long because our support driver would be there a bit after 2am to pick us up and take us to the starting point of the Dead2Red bike race.  We actually had good intentions of getting a good rest and called it a night around 7:00pm, but a loud group of people next door to us started blasting music at 9, which woke me up and with pre-race nerves I just wasn’t able to get back to sleep.  B and I finally gave up around 1am and mercifully found an open cafe in the hotel so we could get some food in us for the 200km we would soon be facing.

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